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YANA PASKOVA/Herald photo

To target student behavior problems such as partying, drinking and dangerous conduct, some university police departments are using the Facebook.

Created in February 2004, the online directory is available to college students across the country as a means to connect with fellow students over the web. Facebook's popularity has been soaring, and campus police have taken notice.

Tyrone Parham, assistant director of police operations at the Pennsylvania State University Police Department, said his department has used Facebook, although they do not "proactively monitor it."

According to Parham, the university police department at Penn State most commonly uses the online directory to investigate claims of harassment which develop over Facebook.

Parham described another instance in which police used Facebook following the Penn State versus Ohio State University football game this past fall. Students stormed the field after their Nittany Lions claimed victory, and, within days, Penn State police were on the case.

"We looked at Facebook … and stadium security cameras," Parham said. "We got word of a Facebook group titled 'I Rushed the Field After the OSU Game (And Lived!)' where actual pictures were shown."

According to Parham, Penn State police looked into the profiles of students whose pictures were tagged in the group's photos. Then police compared Facebook profile pictures to drivers' license pictures for confirmation.

The Penn State students contacted by the university police were warned about their dangerous behavior and some were referred to the school's office of judicial affairs, Parham said.

Some displeased students stated their case.

"Our students went to a local media saying 'this isn't right,'" Parham said. "They thought [Facebook] was really private. But anyone with an '.edu' e-mail address has access."

Yet Penn State students are not alone in this opinion.

University of Wisconsin junior Steve Glasenapp said he doesn't believe police should be using Facebook, especially to look for parties. But according to him, Facebook users need to be careful.

"[My roommates and I] have used Facebook to announce our parties before," Glasenapp said. "We make it private, though, so it's only visible to people we invite."

Facebook spokesperson Chris Hughes gave similar advice. He said students who do not wish to have their profile information accessible to police can adjust their privacy settings accordingly. These settings can filter viewers to only students or even just friends of the Facebook user.

"In general, we do not provide any information to the police unless legally required to do so," Hughes said in an e-mail. "Their usage of Facebook to attain … information is certainly not the way we intended the network to be used."

Police use of the online directory has not been the only issue to arise with Facebook. Last fall, the University of New Mexico banned Facebook from university computers due to security concerns.

According to Hughes, Facebook has been in contact with UNM staff to get the ban lifted.

Despite this, Hughes said, 50 percent of UNM Facebook users are "finding a way to log in daily."